Restraint

The hardest thing about building the house is having restraint. Don’t get me wrong, restraint is a really good thing. Without restraint you can get yourself in a lot of trouble, or become a privileged asshole.  The ability to abstain from things you don’t necessarily have to have is important at times to keep yourself humble. 

However, the amount of restraint that C and I have shown over the past four years, and especially the past year, is enough to test anyone’s strength. While our kids are fortunate enough to have enough clothing from gifts and as hand me downs, C and I have restricted ourselves to the bare minimum. We each have enough outfits to last us about a week to a week and a half and I am often repairing socks, underwear, and especially pants until we are forced to replace them. 

We have been making a list of things we are purchasing once we are able to move into the house and have some spare funds. New clothing for both of us is high on that list. 

We will continue to show restraint once we move. We will continue to strive for a zero waste lifestyle, but there is a difference between sufficient restraint and depriving yourself of basic necessities. 

We are so close to being able to move we cannot fathom having to hold off because we were short on building funds which could have been prevented if we had waited to purchase other things. 

I honestly think that building this house will go down as the hardest thing we have ever done. 

I’m a better Christian because of Buddhism. 

One thing you may not know about me is that I was a Buddhist for 11 years. I won’t go into my conversion to Christianity today, maybe I will another day. Today I want to talk about how this has effected my Christianity. What brought me to Buddhism all those years ago was the idea of giving up the ego. To make myself uncomfortable in order to not make others uncomfortable. I found that I had become too focused on me and what others could do for me and I was miserable.  I began to truly love others regardless of who they are or what they have done. To love them because they are living beings and that my life was no greater or more important than any other living being. 

The best example of me as a Buddhist was with my vegetarianism. I was a vegetarian for religious reasons, because I could not cause the suffering of another living thing. However if I entered someone’s home and was offered food with meat I would eat it because turning down a meal was causing suffering to another person by upsetting them. 

When I converted I saw many of these same Ideas in the purity of Christianity. Giving up the things that make us comfortable and embracing the uncomfortable. 

I sometimes have to hold myself back from purging what little we do have. I keep saying that once we have enough in savings that we will give most of our excess away to help others. Although there is a part of me that says “why wait until you are comfortable” and we may not, although because I have a family I will have three months of bills in savings as a precaution (although that will equal about $3000 which is a lot less than most people). One of the things I look forward to in life is to live, even for a short period of time, with as close to nothing as I can get away with.  C and I at some point will hike the entire Appelacian Trail. This to me would be the closest I can come to having nothing. I want to pack as little as I can get away with in my pack and for months that will be all we have. I feel like in life The fewer things I can put in my pack the closer I feel to God. I’m not sure I would have gotten here without my Buddhist studies.  Why do we need all this stuff to be happy?

My question to you is: Is there something that you are holding onto so tightly that to give it up hurts?   Money is a good example. Not just to those who have it but also to those who don’t. We hold onto it so tightly that often times it hurts. Whether that is trying to obtain the biggest profit you can or holding on to what little you have to feel safe. What can it possibly do for you?  Are you fighting to become comfortable or are you resting in your comfort? Let that feeling go. Take a deep breath and let it go.  Become uncomfortable. Let God take care of it.  Embrace being uncomfortable. If we continue to put our comfort before everything else we will never grow. 

Snowed in

It snowed on Thursday. It snowed a pretty good amount. Probably 6-8 inches, which doesn’t seem like much except that when you live high on a hill with a mile long gravel driveway there is no getting out without 4 wheel drive. Thankfully we have one usable vehicle. A vehicle which C needs to use to get to work Friday- Monday. Which means that I am snowed in with 2 kids. 

We did not run to the grocery store on Wednesday, although in hind sight we should have stopped by the bank. When We sat down to figure out how we could make it until Sunday (the first day we had available to go grocery shopping) without having to do an emergency shopping trip we discovered we could actually go at least a week without needing anything. That was a pretty cool feeling, especially since we typically only spend 100 a week on groceries. The ultimate goal is to not have to worry about food for months. 

The worst part about being snowed in was the water situation. We did not think to fill the water tank before the temperature dropped. Saturday night the water ran out. It took us 12 hours to get the water pipes thawed and the water in the jug thawed (we also forgot to hook up the water heater). We finally got the water flowing again and the water pump in the house to catch.  Much cheering commenced!  We turned on the water and it flowed… And then stopped. Both of our water filters were clogged. Now we cannot use the water until C picks up new filters on his way home from work tomorrow. It’s a good thing I had milk to give the kids it’s been a long day. 

Captain Fantastic

We don’t get a chance to watch movies in the theater anymore. With 4 kids and the cost of tickets it’s just not something we feel is necessary. However, every week we take out 2-3 movies from the library (because they are free!) and watch them with a giant bowl of homemade popcorn when the kids go to sleep.  The library typically offers an unusual variety of films and it’s always interesting to see what we come up with for the week. This week we had the pleasure of watching a fairly new film called Captain Fantastic. 

The plot is something like this: there is a family of 7 living off the grid in the middle of the woods because they don’t believe that normal American society encourages people to thrive intellectually, and lends itself to people not being able to function in both normal and emergency situations. The mother has gone to a hospital while suffering from bipolar disorder. While there she kills herself. Her family (father, mother, sister) go against her will and have her buried. The kids convince the father to go on a mission to save their mother’s body. 

It is a phenomenal movie. One of the best we have seen. Our initial fear was that the family would be portrayed as crazy (as most times off grid families are portrayed this way). We were pleasantly surprised. Not only did they not portray them as crazy but they portrayed the typical American family as undereducated and coddling of their young. You are really meant to admire this guy and the way he raises his family, even though even his kids don’t always agree with his methods. 

There are several parts of the movie that really stuck with me. One of them was a dinner they had with his sister in law’s family.  The entire scene demonstrated the fear that most American families have for keeping complicated issues from their children.  Protecting them from subjects that are “disturbing”. We don’t do this and we are often looked at in the same way her family looked at them. Also it had the best line in the whole film, “How did you kill that chicken? With an axe or a knife?” 

I also really appreciated the movies portrayal of mental illness. The father was adamant that people did not say the mother was crazy. He talked about her illness in biological terms, talked about her sarotonin imbalances, and refused to allow people to hide her illness. Instead of allowing it to be said that “sometimes sick people die” he came back with exactly what was wrong with her and never blamed her. 

*spoilers*

The end of the movie was especially wonderful and thought provoking. The eldest son applied to and was accepted to all of the top colleges (Yale, MIT, etc) because he felt he wasn’t properly prepared for the real world. Granted he already knew a great deal of what was probably going to be taught to him and I was concerned that the writers would send him to college which would most likely be a terrible decision for him. People go to college to be integral members of a society he doesn’t belong to and doesn’t understand. Thankfully the writers came through for us yet again and instead sent him traveling the world to find his place. 

The second thing about the ending that was pretty amazing was the compromise the father came to for both his kids and the rest of the family. He moved them to an off grid lifestyle with less isolation. The kids were in school (but probably also continuing his style of homeschooling with that). It was very much like the lifestyle we are building. It reinforced my belief that we are doing the right thing for our kids.  We want our kids to know the world around them but we also want them to understand that it may not be the best way to live. 

 This is definitely a movie we are purchasing.